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Saudi Grand Mufti: Iranian leaders not Muslim

Schermata 2016 09 08 alle 22.34.15

Saudi Grand Mufti Al-Sheikh's remarks, made to a Mecca newspaper which carried them on Tuesday, drew a swift retort from Iran's Foreign Minister.

Dubai saudi arabia's top religious authority said Iran's leaders were not Muslims, drawing a rebuke from Tehran in an unusually harsh exchange between the regional rivals over the running of the annual haj pilgrimage.

The war of words on the eve of the mass pilgrimage will deepen a long-running rift between the Sunni kingdom and the Shi'ite revolutionary power. They back opposing sides in Syria's civil war and a list of other conflicts across the Middle East.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a message published on Monday, criticized Saudi Arabia over how it runs the haj after a crush last year killed hundreds of pilgrims. He said Saudi authorities had "murdered" some of them, describing Saudi rulers as godless and irreligious.

Responding to a question by Saudi newspaper Makkah, Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh said he was not surprised at Khamenei's comments.

"We have to understand that they are not Muslims ... Their main enemies are the followers of Sunnah (Sunnis)," Al al-Sheikh was quoted as saying, remarks republished by the Arab News.

He described Iranian leaders as sons of "magus", a reference to Zoroastrianism, the dominant belief in Persia until the Muslim Arab invasion of the region that is now Iran 13 centuries ago.

"BIGOTRY"

Al al-Sheikh's remarks drew an acerbic retort from Iran's Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who said they were evidence of bigotry among Saudi leaders.

"Indeed; no resemblance between Islam of Iranians & most Muslims & bigoted extremism that Wahhabi top cleric & Saudi terror masters preach," Zarif wrote on his Twitter account.

Saudi authorities normally seek to avoid public discussion of whether Shi'ites are Muslims, but implicitly recognize them as such by welcoming them to the haj, and by accepting Iranian visits to the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Tensions between the two countries have been rising since Riyadh cut ties with Tehran in January following the storming of its embassy in Tehran, itself a response to the Saudi execution of dissident Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Custodian of Islam's most revered places in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on organizing haj, one of the five pillars of Islam which every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to is obliged to undertake at least once.

Riyadh said 769 pilgrims were killed in the 2015 disaster, the highest haj death toll since a crush in 1990. Counts of fatalities by countries who repatriated bodies showed that more than 2,000 people may have died, more than 400 of them Iranians.

Iran blamed the 2015 disaster on organizers' incompetence. Pilgrims from Iran will be unable to attend haj, which officially starts on Sept. 11, this year after talks between the two countries on arrangements broke down in May.

The split between Islam's main sects dates to a dispute among Muslims over who would rule their community after the death of the Prophet Mohammad, and Shi'ites still regard his descendants as a line of imams blessed with divine guidance.

Today such disagreements over history remain emotive points of tension between the sects, but they are also divided over day -to-day issues including differing interpretations of Islamic law and the role and organization of the clergy.

In the Wahhabi teaching of Sunni Islam followed by the Saudi clergy and government, Shi'ite doctrine about imams is seen as incompatible with the concept of a monotheistic God.

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police




The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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